My motorcycle, packhorse and hopefully faithful companion for the miles ahead is a 2010 BMW R1200GSA. My reasons for purchasing such a ludicrously expensive 'vehicle of adventure' are many but I believe justified. I need a large bike as I'm rather big myself at 6'3" and tipping the scales at 94kg. Having owned an earlier R1200GS I know these bikes go well, are comfortable and easy to ride for long distances. I guess I could have used my older bike but I felt the additional benefits and accessories of the later Adventure model were well worth the upgrade, especially the larger fuel tank. In Western Australia pre-owned GSAs are rare, so I surrendered to my better judgement and spent my hard earned at the local BMW dealership, god they're hopeless. I waited for an 'ex-demo' to become available and once the negotiations were finalised I rode away on what I considered to be a good deal. It's the fully featured model which includes ESA (electronic suspension adjustment), ASC (traction control), RDC (tyre pressure sensors), driving lights, ABS (anti-lock braking), crash bars & luggage racks and I managed to get the BMW panniers and a spare set of tyres thrown in. We have now shared each others company since December 2010 and I absolutely love it to bits, although I still can't bring myself to do what many others do, and that's give it a name, it's just known as the Beemer!
The Beemer, a set on Flickr.
Despite their similar appearance I was surprised at how different the 2010 Adventure model is compared to the 2007 standard GS which I previously owned. There's the obvious engine difference, all 2010 and subsequent models have the DOHC cylinder heads, this does make a difference to engine performance but not massive. The biggest change I noticed was to stability, this appears to be down to the reshaped screen and the fitting of the side screen blades, there is a marked reduction in buffeting which will have a huge effect on fatigue during longer rides. The newer bike also has the ESA which despite appearing to offer only novelty value, in reality it's fantastic being able to adjust the suspension while moving. Preload (spring) adjustment can only be made while stationary, but dampening adjustment can be made on the move which can also reduce fatigue by smoothing out the ride on bumpy roads, I use this feature a lot. Compared to my '07 bike, this newer one does ride and handle just that bit better, it's handling is more precise and despite it's size it is incredibly nimble. The ABS and traction control are great safety features and work fantastically when called upon, but if you like to wheelie away from the lights make sure the traction control is set to off, otherwise the bike just coughs and splutters as it resists your urges.
I have fitted a smattering of Touratech equipment, a removable headlamp protector, ESA sensor protectors front/rear, drive shaft crash bobbin and the obligatory oversized side stand foot. I have replaced the standard BMW sump guard with a SW Motech item because of the extra exhaust pipe protection not offered by the original. As with all well designed and beautifully engineered Touratech/SWMotech/Altrider/Wunderlich gear, it's easy to get caught up in the 'my GS must have that' moment, leading to the purchase of all kinds of superfluous equipment that costs the earth, but I kept a tight hold of the reins and feel I have just what I may need. I have also fitted protection for the driving lights as they appear to be quite delicate items for such an agricultural bike, these were bought from www.cymarcbikeparts.co.uk who produce a range of skillfully made bespoke motorcycle parts.
Because of the extensive electronic reliance of the bike I do live in fear of a failure of some kind, I can manage most mechanical failures but I'm hopeless with electrics. BMW use CANbus (Controller Area Network) technology for their electrical circuitry. CANbus has fewer cables and in theory ensures a high standard of reliability with a wider range of functions. Apart from simplifying the main wiring harness it also allows efficient, comprehensive diagnosis of all vehicle functions. Another advantage of the system is that it no longer requires conventional fuses. CAN-bus technology automatically switches off the suspect component where possible, and checks whether the function is still defective when the rider resets the system by turning the ignition off then on again. As detailed in my 'Getting Ready' post, I have added a Centech fuse box which supplies power to the tank bag, the left hand pannier, a port under the seat, the GPS mount and compass. The power to the fuse box is relay fed and live only when the ignition is on. These ports can be used for the air pump for tyre inflation, and charging of the MacBook, phone, iPod, camera, headset and AAA batteries for Petzl headlamps. These power ports work brilliantly and all the bits and pieces are available from Bluerim Australia.
Tyre selection is obviously dependent on road conditions. I'm assuming that most of the time I will be riding on either hard pack or bitumen. This in mind, my choice for the trip will be road tyres. When I bought the beemer, it was factory fitted with Metzeler Karoo tyres which are an off road tyre. These were surprisingly good both off-road and on, despite their wide block profile. My first long ride on the beemer was on these tyres and while braking and cornering were acceptable, they didn't provide the smoothest ride on tarmac. For the next long run I fitted Metzeler Tourance EXP road tyres and it was a marked improvement in all areas especially handling & comfort. Understanding that tyres are available all over the world I will not be carrying spares, this may mean that during the trip I will not be able to choose my preferred brand, but as long as the size is available I'll get by.
The magic cloak, by all accounts in most of the countries that I'll be travelling through prior to Europe, the inhabitants want to touch, fiddle and surround visiting motorcycles. This is fine, but a lot of the time it causes chaos because the inquisitive viewers tend to block streets and attract far too much attention. In order to prevent this, one of the essential items packed is a motorcycle cover which I believe will help with the above mentioned disorder by helping the bike disappear.
I reckon my bike choice for the trip is bang on, with just one drawback! Travelling with a bike of this value, the security bond required for the Carnet de Passage is considerable to say the least. As mentioned in my Carnet post, a conservative estimation of my bikes value at the start of my trip will be around $20,000, this means that the security required would be $98,000 because of India and Iran, or Indemnity Insurance based on the same value will be $1880.
Other than the few mods mentioned the Beemer is standard issue, so let's hope that our friends in Bavaria built me a tough one without self destructing suspension or electrical defects. I'm sure they did, and I'm even more sure we're going to have a lot of fun together!